Danny Ainge was very candid and forthright about the state of the Celtics in his appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich on Tuesday morning.
When asked about tanking, he made himself clear.
“I don’t think our team is in that situation,” Ainge said.
Furthermore, the Celtics GM expressed his belief that winning is still essential, even after the slew of moves he has made to turn the team upside down this past offseason.
“Young players develop in winning environments, and they develop in winning cultures,” Ainge said. “They develop in meaningful games.”
Ainge also stood by injured point guard Rajon Rondo. When asked what players are untradeable for the future he said “for sure Rondo.”
“The guy was a starter on the All Star team last year before he got hurt. That means he’s one of the top 10 players in the NBA,” Ainge said. “He’s still young and maturing all the time. He would be, by far, the most difficult piece to trade.”
Rondo is currently on the road to recovery after suffering an ACL injury that sidelined him for the second half of last year. Ainge said he thinks that the 27-year-old is on track to return sometime in early December.
“We want to make sure Rondo comes back healthy, he’s such an important part of our team,” Ainge said.
When prompted, he also discussed a deal that almost swapped Rondo for point guard Chris Paul in 2011.
“Over the last few years our biggest weakness was scoring in the last six minutes of the game. Even with Ray and Paul and KG we still couldn’t get over the hump. His (Paul’s) offense was better at the time.”
Ainge says he was very honest with Rondo, as he is with all of his players.
“Once the rumors started coming in we sat down and talked on a few occasions,” he said. “When players have questions, and they come to my office, I tell them straight what’s going on.”
Ainge also made himself very clear on one last topic: Ray Allen.
“He was not traded,” Ainge said, referring to the 2012 trade deadline. “He was told that there was a discussion of a trade, he was not told he was being traded. Then the next summer we offered him a non-trade clause and he didn’t take it.”
Ainge looks forward with hope for the 2013-14 Celtics squad. He also feels, at this time, that his newly hired head coach is the right man for the job, and that he will immediately garner the respect of his players.
“He’ll earn the players respect with his work ethic, knowledge and integrity. He’ll easily earn the respect of the players.”